Beware! The Black Stache!
At first blush, Peter and the Starcatcher seems very un-Shaw-like. Not their usual fare.
But on second thought, when you take into account that it is the prequel to Peter Pan, it fits Shaw’s updated mandate just fine. Peter and the Starcatcher is now on stage at the Shaw Festival’s Royal George Theatre in downtown Niagara on the Lake.
So, how did Peter Pan learn to fly and how did he become the boy that never grows up? This story answers those questions and more. One of my favourite newspaper columnists, Dave Barry, along with Ridley Pearson, wrote the novel, which was turned into a play by Rick Elice. Elice is the writer behind Jersey Boys, and certainly has a talent for comedy.
Obviously, the Shaw is using Peter and the Starcatcher to reach out to a family audience. There is plenty of action to capture a child’s attention, while there are enough slightly naughty jokes to keep adults amused. At times, it feels a bit like a panto, minus the audience participation. Many of the jokes are taken from today’s pop culture. For example, when the orphan boys are offered worms to eat, they ask for the vegetarian alternative. They fear the hottest active volcano, Mount Jalapeno. And one of the epithets uttered is “Sweet Mary Martin”.
Meanwhile the setting, like the original Peter Pan story, is Victorian England. It was quite appropriate for the opening of the show to be on the Victoria Day long weekend. This very patriotic bunch repeatedly reminded us, yelling in unison “God Save Her, Queen Victoria!” while thumping their chests.
The 12 person cast plays more than 100 characters, making for a lively show. The action occurs on board two ships, the Wasp and the Neverland, which are on literally a collision course.
Charlie Gallant is so delightful as the Boy (spoiler alert) who later is given the name Peter, followed by the last name, Pan. In fact, I hope the Shaw has plans to do the musical Peter Pan in the near future, with Charlie Gallant in the lead role.
Kate Besworth is endearing as the feisty but sweet little Molly, the girl who befriends the Boy who is sullen and angry in the beginning. Martin Happer is perfect as the evil Black Stache pirate, who later loses a hand. We’re told that the Stache is on everyone’s lip, and the pirates have a little swash and a little buckle. Jenny L. Wright and Shawn Wright as Mrs. Bumbrake and Alf are hilarious as lovers. The rest of the cast is solid and are to be commended for their many convincing character changes.
It’s not really a musical, it’s more a play with songs, but in either case, it’s funny. Bring the kids or come on your own, just be ready to laugh.
Peter and the Starcatcher continues in repertoire at The Shaw Festival, Niagara on the Lake until November 1. For tickets, visit www.shawfest.com or call 1-800-511-7429.
Photo: Martin Happer as Black Stache, Kate Besworth as Molly, James Daly as Prentiss and Andrew Broderick as Ted in Peter and the Starcatcher. Photo by David Cooper.
Peter and the Starcatcher
A Play by Rick Elice
Based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
Music by Wayne Barker
Directed by Jackie Maxwell
Movement Direction by Valerie Moore
Musical direction by Ryan deSouza
Performed by Charlie Gallant, Kate Besworth, Martin Happer, Patrick Galligan, Andrew Broderick, James Daly, Billy Lake, Graeme Somerville, Jonathan Tan, Kelly Wong, Jenny L. Wright and Shawn Wright
Produced by The Shaw Festival
Royal George Theatre, Niagara on the Lake
April 8 to November 1, 2015
Reviewed by Mary Alderson